DIY Home Decor Pet Projects

How to make DIY Dog Silhouette Art

I have been a dog owner for over 20 years. My dogs are my children, which means I need to hang large pictures of them around my house.  While I want all my guests to admire my adorable pet portraits, I don’t want to look like the crazy dog lady.  So, instead of full-blown oil-paintings of my dogs in gilded-gold frames (btw no judgment for anyone who goes this route), I have opted to create DIY dog silhouette art.  I love doing silhouette style art, as you don’t need to be an artist. You just need to be able to trace. I created painted silhouettes for my first two fur babies that still hang in my dining room.  These worked so well because they both had very distinct profiles.  The portraits captured their individuality perfectly. 

I tried to apply this similar technique to creating the profile silhouettes for my new girls, but it didn’t really capture them. They are sisters and while they look similar, they have distinctive personalities and the painted portraits just didn’t capture that.  So, I decided to go for a cut out approach, which honestly was much easier. 

Cameo silhouettes
While these were cute, they just didn’t feel like I had captured their personalities.

Step One: Capture the Personality

You need to start with a good picture.  A picture that is not head-on will give you more to work with, but I also like one that shows the dog’s personality, as well.  I found that running around outside with my dogs first gave them a cuter mouth-open, playful look.  If I woke them up from a nap, they would’ve just looked sleepy or complacent (which is not either of them).  

Step Two: Outlining

You can outline it in several different ways.  The easiest is to print it out and then use a pen to trace the shape you want.  Most of us are better at tracing with our hands than doing it on a computer.  To capture a little more of each dog, I had a few places where I followed the natural line of the ears or the paws to cut in.  Once you have the basic outline, I think it is helpful to color it in with a black marker.  This will give you a sense of how the final project will look and if the silhouette will read how you want it to.  If you have a tablet or feel skilled with photoshop, you can also do this step on the computer.  I just pulled the picture into pages on my iPad and traced it that way.  Because I was using a tablet, it felt just like tracing with a pen.   

Dog silhouette on ipad
I started by outlining on my iPad, but you can also print and do this by hand.

Step Three: Printing to Scale

Once I knew how I wanted the profiles outlined, I wanted to print it larger than one piece of paper.  For me, the easiest way to do this was by converting my design to a pdf and opening in Adobe Acrobat.  Adobe has an option to print a tiled image.  This allowed me to increase the size to 150% and it printed across four pages that I then taped together.  You may not need to do this depending on how large you want your final silhouette. If you are opting to trace it by hand, you will need to retrace the profile following the same lines you did before.  This will help guide your cutting in the next step.  You don’t need to color it in, as you already have a sense of how the final will work.  

Step Four: Cutting out the profile silhouette 

Take your print out of your dog profile and tape it on top of your cardstock.  You can optionally get rid of some of the excess white around your pet first.  Once it is securely taped, place it on a cutting mat and use an Xacto knife to cut around the silhouette.  It took me about 20 minutes per dog.  However, I did this as I watched silly TV.  I found having something on in the background, kept me from rushing and I took my time. Other folks might find it distracting, but it was kind of relaxing for me.  

Cut outs of dog silhouettes
After the silhouettes have been cut out. Then I used spray adhesive to attach to the white background.

Step Five: Framing

I reused old frames that I already had.  I was able to just flip the picture around and attach the cutout silhouettes to the back.  If you aren’t able to do that you just need the background (out of cardstock or thicker) cut to the correct size.  I then used 3M spray adhesive on the back of the silhouette and placed it on the background.  You want to spray the silhouette and not the background.  If you spray the background, you will have extra sticky stuff in place you don’t want it.  Once it has dried, then put it in your frame and hang it up.  While I love my painted portraits, this was so much faster as I did not have to wait for any paint to dry. 

If you like the nightstands under the portraits, you can check out that tutorial here.